Eagles win convincingly over South Carolina State in the first game of the Lunsford Era

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  • Redshirt sophomore quarterback Shai Werts had three rushing touchdowns in the victory over South Carolina State. It was his first multi-rushing touchdown performance of his career. 

  • Junior nose tackle Ty Phillips picked up a fumble and headed for the endzone, but was tackled at the 28. The Eagle defense forced two turnovers Saturday night. 

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Ryan Kostensky

Entering Head Coach Chad Lunsford’s first full season, there were questions about what to expect from this team and would they be able to bounce back from 2017’s abysmal two-win season.

The Eagles quieted the critics, for now at least, with their 37-6 victory over South Carolina State, showing that they could effectively run the option, and throw if necessary.

GS started the game a little slow, it wasn’t until 3:55 left in the first quarter that Monteo Garrett rushed in for a one-yard score. The Eagles would then go for two but fail on the attempt, making it 6-0. They tacked on a second td at the end of the first quarter, when Shai Werts broke free for a 23 yard score, and with the help of Tyler Bass, it was 13-0.

The defense played stout throughout, getting some takeaways, but none was bigger than Ty Phillips’ fumble recovery and return that set up the Eagles to score a touchdown. After the game, Phillips talked about the fumble recovery.

“I want to thank “Coop”, Deshaun Cooper, for forcing the fumble,” Phillips said. “I really was gonna be a team player and block for him, but I saw the opportunity for me to scoop it up, I mean these legs weren’t fast enough to get to the end zone.”

There wasn’t much doing for Georgia Southern in the second quarter, just a lone field goal off the boot of Tyler Bass stretched the Eagles’ lead to 16-0 over South Carolina State.

Coming back onto the field to start the second half, Georgia Southern looked to add to their lead and secure the win. Wesley Fields ran into the endzone in the third quarter for his first score of the season. The senior made it a 23-0 lead for the Eagles.

After scoring a touchdown of their own to end the shutout and a blocked PAT that followed, the Bulldogs still trailed mightily, but the story of the final period would be the young quarterback for the Eagles, Shai Werts, who rushed for two more touchdowns, bringing his total to three on the day, as well as rushing for 163 yards.

The Georgia Southern quarterback talked about his familiarity with the offense in his second year as the starter.

“It was kinda just happening, just playing fast, playing off instinct, and that’s what I can do when I’m comfortable,” Werts said. “I feel a lot more comfortable in this offense, and thats the kind of plays I can make when I’m free and loose.”

Defensively, GS held SCSU to six points and 151 total yards. While they allowed 120 rushing yards to the Bulldogs, the GS defense only allowed 31 passing yards which was a good site to see.The 3-4 defense gave them different looks defensively which may have helped them out.

Lunsford has appeared to change the culture at GS, but there were still questions as to whether he could lead the Eagles to victory. He might have silenced some of the critics, calling an excellent game and running the triple option very effectively against SCSU.

After the game, Lunsford talked about what he saw from his offense during the game.

“Well I think the start was, and we talked about it at half, we left points out on the field in the first half,” Lunsford said. “I think there’s something to– we’re still gelling on offense, and we said this in scrimmages and training camp that our defense was a little ahead of our offense, but I was proud of them. The did come back in the second have and we did talk about finishing all the time, and we made some adjustment, and our guys did a really good job coming out.”

The Eagles are still five wins away from bowl eligibility, but GS can get one step closer next week, when they host UMass next Saturday. 

Ryan Kostensky, The George-Anne Sports Reporter, gasports@georgiasouthern.edu